Incident in San Francisco (Chapter 8, page 1 of 8)


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Chapter 8

Monty finished reading the article on global warming and its devastating impact on glaciers around the world, and reluctantly set the magazine aside. His thirst for knowledge had led him to subscribe to a half-dozen magazines covering a wide range of interests. The topic of this one was science, and he liked to expand on the basic information he had been given in school. Of course, he took a couple of journals which dealt solely with cattle-raising or farming practices, but those were read to keep current in his field of work. The ones he really enjoyed were the weekly news magazine, the science magazine, one geared toward car and truck enthusiasts, and a couple more whose topics changed annually. His mail frequently contained the thick envelopes with promises that he would win millions of dollars if he had, and returned, the winning numbers. But unlike most recipients, Monty actually read through the special offers of magazines at giveaway prices for an introductory subscription, and he sampled a wide variety of those. He had found that one year of reading on topics as specialized as the Civil War, guns and ammunition, owner-built homes, and life in New York, had provided him with a broad-ranging base of current knowledge in a lot of areas. When one subscription ran out, he picked some other specialty magazine and spent a year with it.

But it had been dark for an hour now, and moonlight was hitting the tops of the western hills. It was time to go back to work.

For Monty, as for most ranchers, hunting animals was not sport, but part of their job. Imbued with a deep love for the land and for the animals which live on it, they considered animal husbandry a necessary part of their duties as caretakers of their piece of Earth. At one time, before Man interfered, nature had looked after things, using the predators to control the populations of the plant-eaters. But the giant grizzly bear no longer roamed California, and the smaller black bear was almost non-existent except in some remote mountain areas. Mountain lions were making a strong comeback from near extinction, and there had been occasional sightings in this part of Monterey County, but they were still a rarity. The numbers of the larger birds of prey, the eagles and hawks, had been decimated mid-century when the extensive use of DDT had led to its accumulation in their bodies at the top of the food chain, resulting in egg shells too weak to survive.

Of course, like all people, ranchers were driven by self-interest, and so were selective in how they assisted Nature. Monty did not raise sheep, goats, or chickens, and so did not find coyotes a problem. His mother cows did an excellent job of defending their young calves, and he had often marveled at how one cow would remain behind to baby-sit while the others made the long trek to the river to drink. He had never lost an animal to coyotes, and so left those little fawn-colored wolves in peace if he saw one slinking around the brush or out in a field, looking for ground squirrels. Another rancher who raised sheep, however, would surely shoot coyotes on sight, since lamb and mutton was a taste which, once acquired, apparently relegated rabbit and squirrel to the bottom of a coyote's menu. Unless that ranch was home to a red-tailed hawk or two, or a lot of gopher snakes, the owner would then have to use shotgun or rifle to try to keep the ground squirrels from turning the land into a giant sieve, with their multitude of holes and burrows, each surrounded by a circle of bare ground denuded of vegetation. But sheep could be raised and sold, and squirrels couldn't.

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